RICHMOND, Va. — Kyle Busch parlayed fresh tires and a late-stage restart to win the opening stage of Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway, the final race of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular season.
Busch flew from fifth to first when the green flag flew with eight laps before the stage break, powering past Brad Keselowski and holding off a determined Kyle Larson to notch his 11th stage win of the year.
After a four-wide parade lap to kick off Fan Appreciation Night, Matt Kenseth darted out from the pole and opened up a second and a half lead over the field early, while Martin Truex Jr. climbed from fifth to second early on before the first caution of the night flew on lap 35.
The yellow came out after Landon Cassill pounded the turn one wall with a flat left-rear tire.
Racing resumed on lap 41 when Kenseth resumed command over Truex, with Kyle Busch surging up to challenge for second before settling in behind Truex in third.
Despite traffic, that order remained the same all the way through the night’s second caution on lap 87, thrown in response to substantial smoke from the back of Kenseth’s car as he worked through turns three and four.
With no apparent problem on Kenseth’s car, the field came down pit road for service, with Brad Keselowski, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Paul Menard staying out on old tires to lead the field back to green.
That led to a near four-wide scramble on the restart, with Busch leaping from fifth to first on the bottom lane as Kenseth got bottle-necked on the outside and fell back to the fringe of the top five as a result.
Though Larson moved into second and nearly got inside of Busch three separate times in the final six laps of the stage, Busch held on by .220 of a second at the green-checkered flag.
Larson crossed the line in second ahead of Clint Bowyer and Kenseth, who led the first 89 laps of the race. Truex completed the top five.
Joey Logano, Erik Jones, Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott and Kurt Busch were the rest of the points-scoring drivers inside the top 10 at the stage break.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished the first stage just outside the points in 11th.
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Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
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